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O Connor & Sabato, Chapter 10: Public Opinion and the News


O Connor & Sabato, Chapter 10: Public Opinion and the News Media Presentation 10.3: The News Media Key Topics The American press of yesteryear The contemporary ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: O Connor & Sabato, Chapter 10: Public Opinion and the News

OConnor Sabato, Chapter 10 Public Opinion and
the News Media
  • Presentation 10.3 The News Media

Key Topics
  • The American press of yesteryear
  • The contemporary media scene
  • How the media cover politicians and government
  • Bias and the media
  • Media influence govt. regulation

  • The agenda-setting power of the media
  • The importance of the 1st Amendments protections
    of freedom of the press, and what it means
  • The role of the media in facilitating political
    discourse in a mass society

The American Press of Yesteryear
  • The first newspapers were published in 1690
  • Were mostly trade papers
  • However, they also had an impact on public opinion

Picture of Newspaper Row in NY in the mid-19th
century. Picture courtesy www.nyu.edu.
1a. The Fourth Branch of Government?
  • Authors believe that reference to be fictional
  • The media often support political causes, but are
    independent private organizations
  • The basis for journalistic integrity avoiding
    the appearance of being a mere propaganda arm
    for govt. (e.g. a shill)

1ai. A Contrasting View
  • Argues that the media functions as an
    intermediary institution like interest groups
  • Function to protect their economic interests

Timothy Cook, Harvard University Picture courtesy
1b. The Era of the Partisan Press
  • Thomas Jefferson Alexander Hamilton started
    newspapers to spread their views
  • Each conducted vicious campaigns against the
  • Motto of the day Ammunition, not information

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826). Picture courtesy
1bi. Partisan Press cont.
  • Andrew Jackson included influential newspaper
    editors in his Kitchen Cabinet
  • The partisan press gave way to the penny press
    after Jackson left office

Andrew Jackson (1767-1845). Picture courtesy
1c. The Penny Press
  • Publishers realized that sponsorship by political
    parties limited the economic possibilities of
  • Benjamin Day published the New York Sun, the 1st
    penny paper
  • The idea behind the penny press was to maximize
    sales and then sell advertising based on

1ci. The Penny Press Scandals
  • The penny press tried to maximize circulation by
    focusing on scandals
  • 1884 articles about Grover Clevelands
    illegitimate child
  • The Cleveland-Blaine strategies for handling

Picture courtesy www.harpweek.com.
1d. Yellow Journalism
  • A function of Progressive Era politics (concern
    over corruption)
  • Yellow journalism publishing strategy that
    featured pictures, comics, fluff designed to
    appeal to lowest common denominator among readers
  • Led to oversimplified sensationalized coverage
    of politics

The authors suggest that the motto of yellow
journalism was Damn the truth, full speed ahead!
1di. Muckraking
  • The name was coined by Teddy Roosevelt
  • A journalistic commitment to seeking out
    corruption in business government
  • A great deal of good came from muckraking

One unfortunate consequence of muckraking was the
frequent publication of unsubstantiated gossip
and rumors.
1dii. Muckraker Profile
  • Wrote The Jungle, detailing abuses in the Chicago
    meatpacking industry
  • Part-time socialist, Democratic candidate for the
    governorship of CA in 1934

Upton Sinclair (1878-1969). Picture courtesy
1e. The Rise of Media Independence
  • Independence was related to the rise of the media
    as a corporate enterprise
  • Political patronage became an obstacle to
    reaching as wide an audience as possible
  • Democratic dollars spend as well as Republican

Fear of alienating mass advertisers led
publishers to tone down the proletarian rhetoric
that characterized Pulitzer and Hearsts early
newspapers. Newspaper publishers became pillars
of the community in the late 19th century, and
began adopting more a political editorial tone.
1ei. Technological Advances
  • High-speed printing presses and cheaper paper
    enabled newspapers to produce papers more cheaply
  • Telegraphs and telephones simplified news
  • Radio enabled politicians to wholesale to a
    national audience
  • The mesmerizing implications of television

Is television the best way for a citizen to keep
themselves informed?
2. The Contemporary Media Scene
  • The distinction between the print and electronic
  • The decline of newspaper circulation
  • 69 of Americans over age 18 get most their news
    from television

2a. The Majoritarian Nature of Television
Coverage of Politics
  • Studies indicate that the television media is
    less questioning of the government in their
  • Television and the time crunch less time to
    devote to context
  • Newspapers have greater space to cover politics
    in depth

2b. Television vs. Newspapers
  • The proliferation of cable news outlets
  • CBS, NBC, ABC now face competition from
  • The small-but-growing cable news audiences
  • The growth of local news
  • Largely uncritical coverage of political actors

2c. The Rise of the Internet
  • Nearly every major newspaper and opinion magazine
    has websites
  • The percentage of Americans who get their news
    from the Web at least once a week tripled between
    1997-1999 (11 to 36 million users)
  • The gender, racial, and age divide on Internet

3. How the Media Cover Politicians and Government
  • How does the media cover the three major
    institutions of government?
  • How has Watergate affected the tone of political

3i. Three Terms Associated with Politician-Media
  • Press Release a written document by a political
    actor responding to an issue or event
  • Press Briefing a controlled, live engagement
    with the press, with a limited range of questions
    accepted usually conducted by a representative
  • Press Conference an in-person appearance with a
    relatively unrestricted range of topics

Press conferences are becoming more rare because
politicians have difficulty controlling the
room, and establishing the right spin on the
information being provided to the media
3a. The President
  • The president as first among equals
  • Use of press conferences as the bully pulpit to
    shape public opinion
  • Pres. press secretaries hold daily briefings w/
    the White House press corps

JFK press conference. Picture courtesy www.jfklibr
3ai. Negative Press Coverage
  • Since the 1960s, press coverage of the president
    has taken a negative turn
  • Presidential candidates overall receive more
    negative than positive coverage
  • The focus on character issues has resulted in
    much more cynical coverage than previously

3b. Congress
  • The size and decentralized nature of Congress
    makes coverage difficult
  • Congressional press corps has over 3,000 members
  • Journalists generally focus on a few important
    activities and groups of congresspersons

3bi. Three Groups of Members who Receive Media
  • Leadership leaders of both parties receive the
    bulk of the coverage b/c they speak on behalf of
    their members
  • Key Committee Chairs draw attention when their
    committees are doing noteworthy things
  • Local senators/representatives local stations
    cover their representatives give them favorable

3bii. The Importance of Investigative Hearings
  • Ad hoc hearings using Congresss oversight powers
    often draws intense coverage
  • The media is drawn to scandal conflict (as a
    moth to the flame)

McCarthys reckless charges destroyed many
innocent figures, and gave rise to the term
Sen. Joe McCarthy (1908-1957). Picture
3biii. The C-SPAN Effect
  • Day-to-day coverage of Congress provided by
  • Offers Americans inside coverage of floor debates
    committee hearings

GIF courtesy www.c-span.org.
3c. The Judiciary
  • The most difficult branch for the media to cover
  • Judicial deliberations and decision-making are
    shrouded in secrecy
  • Most news organizations have Supreme Court
    reporters who report on particularly
    controversial cases the Court takes

Supreme Court nominations and confirmation are
subject to intensive media scrutiny.
3e. Investigative Journalism
  • An extension of muckraking
  • Watergate two junior journalists broke the story
    that brought down an administration
  • Shifted the journalistic orientation

Woodward and Bernstein. Picture courtesy
3ei. From Description to Prescription
  • Investigative journalism increasingly began to
    focus attention on candidates character
  • Admonition give voters insight into the
    character of candidates, and the electorate will
    be in a better position to make wise decisions

Leads to the publication of innuendo, rumors, and
long-past incidents.
How would you like to judged by every
embarrassing event in your life?
3eii. Loosening the Libel Law
  • Fear of libel suits prevented publication of many
    critical stories
  • New York Times v. Sullivan (1964) loosened the
    standard for libel (See Chapter 4)
  • The threat of libel litigation can still
    intimidate smaller publishers from publishing
    critical stories

4. Bias and the Media
  • What is the nature of media bias?
  • The historical basis for the liberal media
  • The rise of conservative media to counter the
    perception of liberal bias

Bias the tendency to distort reality in favor of
a preferred ideological or political perspective.
4a. Liberal Bias?
  • Most journalists self-identify as liberal
  • Many journalists have worked for Democrats at one
    time or another (e.g. George Stephanopoulos)
  • The progressive bias in the journalistic trade

4b. The Rise of Conservative Media
  • Most owners of media are conservative (e.g.
    Rupert Murdoch)
  • The recent proliferation of conservative media
    outlets (FoxNews, the Washington Times, the New
    York Post)
  • The prevalence of conservative AM radio talk
    shows (e.g. Rush Limbaugh)

4bi. The Limbaugh Effect
  • Conservatives success at AM radio talk shows
  • Limbaughs large audience
  • Limbaughs influence within the Republican Party

Will revelations of his prescription drug
addition affect his power influence?
Rush Limbaugh. Picture courtesy www.rush.com.
4c. The Pro-Business Bias
  • The concentration of media ownership
  • The Big Seven Time Warner, Disney, General
    Electric, Viacom, Seagram, News Corporation, and
  • The power of corporate ownership to suppress
    critical stories

4d. The Rise of Celebrity Journalism
  • Blurring the boundaries between entertainment
  • The ethical challenge of buckrakers (ask me
    about it!)
  • The revolving door phenomenon (e.g. Pat

Can a journalist maintain their objectivity when
they take lucrative speaking fees from business
interests they might at a later date have to
5. Media Influence on the Public
  • Is it the medias obligation to entertain,
    inform, or both?
  • The growing prevalence of fluff in news
  • Local news obsession with If it bleeds it leads

What gets reported as well as how it get reported
can have significant consequences for how
Americans view politics.
5a. How Much Influence Does the Media Have?
  • Apparently, very little.
  • Tendency of people to listen to stories that
    confirm existing beliefs
  • Voters are not empty vessels

The genuinely bigoted are the last to be swayed
to a newer, less ignorant vision of reality.
5b. Agenda-Setting Influence
  • Reporting can sway the uncommitted
  • The medias influence in issue areas where people
    are largely ignorant
  • The agenda-setting power the media cant tell us
    what to think, but they can tell us what to think

The media tends to exert a disproportionate
influence over independent voters.
6. Government Regulation of the Electronic Media
  • The unequal treatment of print and electronic
    media (2 reasons)
  • 1st The airwaves are legally viewed as public
  • 2nd The (seemingly) finite nature of the
  • The FCCs role as an independent regulatory

The FCC is viewed by many media critics as a
prime example of a captured regulatory agency.
Confused? Ask me!
6a. The Politics of the Telecommunications Act
  • Broke down barriers required by federal and state
    laws designed to break up AtTs monopoly
  • Intent create cheaper and better programming for
  • Criticized for promoting rampant media

6b. Content Regulation
  • Government attempts to regulate the electronic
    media to insure that they serve the public
  • Equal time rule required broadcast stations sell
    campaign air time equally to all candidates
  • Until 2000, broadcasters were required to give
    candidates the opportunity to respond to personal

A federal court of appeals ruled that
opportunity response rules were
6c. Censorship
  • The media is subject to less censorship in the
    U.S. than most democratic nations
  • The importance of NY Times v. United States
  • The challenge of covering military operations
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